Monday, May 31, 2010

Harvest Monday Macarons

Harvest Monday and so much to report but virtually no photos of it. I picked so much basil, rosemary, coriander, yellow carrots, snow peas and lettuce over the past week but ate it all before photographing it. Here is a stock photo from last week to tide you all over.

The balcony garden keeps me in most of my veggie needs and added well to the things I baked for my 30ths birthday over the weekend! Indeeded almost everything listed above went into goods for the party. Coriander in the marinated chicken sticks, yellow carrots on the dip platter, rosemary and basil on the mini pizzas and more. What a great party. So sorry I don't have pictures of the harvest, but I hope the picture below of the multicoloured macarons I made to celebrate the occasion will make up for it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pink Cornflower

Pink cornflower, pink cornflower, pink cornflower, enough said :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Harvest Monday Happiness

A rainy Monday evening and I am just drying off after another snailageddon on the balcony garden. No matter how many I kill they just keep on coming! Still they can't get their hands on my harvest this week, well most of my harvest.

Snow peas are in at the moment, if this post at the 6 x 8 garden is to go by (and others that I have read recently but have slipped my mind.) They are in on the balcony garden too, crisp, sweet and ever so tasty. I only get three or four at a time, but once the rest of the peas grow through the harvest will increase. Yay for future stirfries!

Carrots get pulled out of the ground ever now and then. Good in salads and the vibrantly coloured ones are going to be a hit at my Casablanca 30th Birthday Party on the weekend.

Golden beetroot, pulled out, grated and placed in a beetroot and autumn veg risotto. Yum

I get a solid amount of lettuce and silverbeet eat week, probably a fistful every day. Enough for a plate of salad or an extra green sandwich.

Coriander is ready for the picking, and I had a leaf or two as a delicious garnish on my beetroot pearl couscous dish tonight (alas the beetroot was store-bought given the slowness of my purple beets in the balcony garden.)

Eggplant. Can't remember what I used it for, but whatever it was I bet it was tasty. There are even more eggplants on this hardy little plant! And it is almost winter here!!!

And these two delicious veggies, a butternut pumpkin and some cabbage, came from my cousin's garden. The pumpkin has been put in some pumpkin, pinenut and paprika filo parcels for the party this weekend (hiding in the freezer at present so they keep yummy and don't get eaten by myself before the party) and will also be cooked up to go in pumpkin coconut creme brulee. The cabbage has been added to many things including salads, a stir fry, and a corned beef.

The broccoli is budding so there might just be a new addition to the harvest post next week ... If you want to see more harvests pop on over to Daphne's Dandelions and join in the fun.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Flowers for fabulous fare: thanks EARL canteen

Sandwiches have been on the brain of recent weeks, shown by my post on the decadent fig and prosciutto sandwiches I've been munching on lately. To the gardners out there, I am sorry for this lunchtime obsession and to this end I am sorry to add that this isn't a post on gardening, but the above flower pic is to satiate the gardeners and to serve as a floral thankyou to EARL canteen for making my tummy very happy. EARL canteen is a new, restaurant quality, sandwich place in Melbourne's CBD which, after reading some of the enticing blog reviews, including Melbourne Gastronome, Eating Melbourne and ThatJessHo, to name but a few, I concluded it was a must visit. Seriously just look at the pictures on those posts, how could you not want to visit?

Flexible lunchtime hours offered by the PhD experience meant that I could afford the time to wander down to EARL last Wednesday. Colleague E joined me and we treked all the way from Melbourne Uni to Bourke Street to join the sandwich bliss experience. We weren't disappointed. I am still dreaming about my pork belly sandwich, while drooling at the prospect of trying their other, amazing flavours (or just having another pork belly one!!!) Colleague E ate their Duck confit ciabatta which was equally as impressive. The macaron, which was enjoyed a few hours later on South Lawn with a short mac while back at uni was absolutely wonderful.

The service was so friendly and the experience so wonderful that colleague E and I flirted with the desire to have such a place on campus. But then we decided no, on campus would be too much, our cholesterol levels would skyrocket and our wallets fall in the opposite direction. Plus the walk to EARL in the sunny, but chilly Melbourne Autumn weather was just as fun as the feed and calorie burning enough to warrant eating such filling fare.

So thankyou EARL, what a wonderful lunch, and we will be back next week for more (with more hungry decent-sandwich-starved history postgrads in tow)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day in May

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day over at May Dreams Gardens nearly came and went while I was avidly posting for the blog carnival for Life on the Balcony. It just means you get two posts in one day! Here is what is blooming on the balcony garden, well actually it was what was blooming a couple of days ago. I forgot to get out into the garden today so hopefully these will do: black cornflowers, A sunflower still unfolding, a geranium, violas, potential snowpeas (aka snow pea flower) and a blurry picture of the snapdragons.

The Birds and the Bumbling

Living in the inner city, usually the only wildlife I see on a regular basis are intoxicated stilletto wearing young girls, and equally intoxicated male companions. Their habitat is all around me, college kid bars, cheap souvlaki joints and a plethora of even cheaper Asian noodle shops. This is not the wildlife I wish to attract to the balcony garden and they are fairly easily shooed away.

I did want to attract other wildlife, a few birds, in particular some lovely and brightly coloured ones. I one saw rainbow lorikeets in the trees in the middle of the road and wanted to bring them closer.

Um, well. I do read blogs for research guidelines and for ideas on how to attract such birds. I fully intended on following these. And then I completely ignored everything and went with an impulse buy of a little baby bird house.

I fully intended to put something native birds would like to eat in it. Do you think I ever put anything edible or attractive in it? Um nope. But it HAS attracted wildlife, at least in the form of generations of spiders and now I'm certainly not going anywhere near it, and nor are the birds.

Prue and bird time loveliness 0 Creepy Wildlife 1

Birds love water, or so learned people tell me. I haven't money for bird baths and am too lazy to go out and purchase one anyway and then have to bring it home, set it up, maintain it, etc, etc. Also in Melbourne we have a water crisis, or so I conveniently say and use this as an excuse. Once I put a little icecream container of water out to attract the lorikeets but no such luck. All that happened was that it got grimy with tyre dust and leaf litter. It also attracted wierd little creepy crawlies. Total grossness.

Prue and bird time loveliness 0 Creepy Wildlife 2

The plastic fanstastic icecream tub bird bath eventually got thrown away and the impulse buy bird/spider home now sits next to an ashtray. I keep the ashtray on the balcony for my few smoker friends at parties. I hasn't been used in a while and on rainy days it fills up with water.
Birds are fickle creatures, they didn't like the icecream tub bathing facilities but they did like the ashtray filled with water. Maybe they are nicotine freaks!?! While this ersatz bird drug den didn't entice the lorikeets over, I did get a whole lot of happily paddling sparrows. They may not be brightly coloured but they are cute.

(Ok yes, I admit the ashtray is empty in that photo, but you get the gist.) What's more, the sparrows stayed all spring, when the tomato crops were infected with cabbage moth caterpillars.

They would eat five or six caterpillars in a few minutes and then play in the water. It was an accidental paradise for the sparrows. Still no lorikeets but more and more birdy action.

Prue and bird time loveliness 1 Creepy Wildlife 2 (minus one from the eating) = 1

Harmony and balance and birdy goodness! Now I am not completely silly and I know there is much more I could do. I could plant more native vegetation to attract the lorikeets, but this would mean reducing the fruit and vegetable space. Balancing what you want out of a balcony garden where space is at a premium can be a tricky business. So for now I am leaving the lorikeets to their own devices. I have sparrows and they have an impromptu birdbath and autumn crops such as broccoli to keep them filled with green caterpillars. Seems to be working well so far.

So in short - if you are going to be so foolish as to ignore hard researched ideas for attracting animals and go for the cheap flashy option be warned, you will attract the wrong wildlife. However, if some flukish accidents help bring the wildlife to your balcony anyway then all the better.

Friday, May 14, 2010

B is for Barefooted Snailicide at Midnight

Poor balcony garden. Up until now snails have done this,

and this,

and this.

Turns out old Sid had a lot of babies. And they all seem extra keen to devour plants beginning with the letter B. So tonight, at midnight, when it was lightly drizzling, I put a stop to it all. Well a stop to about .05% of it. With whatever was at hand, which turned out to be my trusty tea mug, clad in my pyjamas and dressing gown but bare footed, I committed balcony garden snailicide. I put the tally at about 2 extra large, 1 large, 5 medium and a few little'uns all squished. Oddly satisfying even if my feet are wet and frozen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cooking with Garden: The World's Yummiest Sandwich

Ok so that is a pretty big claim, the world's yummiest sandwich, actually it is a monstrously exaggerated claim, but to me it is true for this point in time. The fig, proscuitto and balcony garden greens sandwich has been keeping me sustained of a lunchtime for several days a week now. Alas it is the end of the fig season and without a fig tree on the balcony I can't even call them home grown, but the greens are. Now I hope I don't need to tell people how to make a sandwich. But incase you need a helping hand here is a photo essay to give you the aid you require.



Layer 1 on dark rye

Layer 2 (buy extra proscuitto and eat some along the way, sandwich making is tiring work)

Lettuce, wash it first!

Layer 3

mmmmmmm, sandwich.

Note that other versions have included other tasty ingredients such as brie, avocado and cucumber ,but the simplest version seems to be the best.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cooking with Garden: Wild Mushroom Pasta

This post needs to start with a disclaimer. I would love to say that these mushrooms were homegrown, but they weren't even home foraged. I'd have no idea of the difference between a safe mushroom and an inedible one, so it'd be expiration via death cap all the way. These mushrooms I sourced at the Vic markets, slippery jacks and pine mushrooms. They are only on sale for a few weeks of the year and they are totally divine. Not cheap, but as I didn't need too many they came in under my student budget. I added them to a linguine for a very decadent pasta. Also in this pasta ... rocket and almost rocket (random green that tastes the same) from the balcony garden, chilli from the balcony garden, and store bought other mushrooms, onion, garlic and lemon. I wish the lemon came from the garden but there are only four lemons on the tree, and they are as green as the greens in this dish.

First step wash the greens, rip them a little and leave them aside. Apparently I should also have cleaned the bench of red pasta sauce which I was making at the same time. Ooops.

Second step, admire the mushrooms. Seriously who could not want to just stare at these things - they are amazing. After breaking gaze prepare them so they are of relatively equal size. I chopped each different variety a different way so they would be even easier to recognise in the final dish. I added in some button mushrooms and some larger white mushrooms to give it a variety of flavour, and some enoki, (only add the enoki after cooking off the large mushrooms first, otherwise they become too msushy.) Once they are cut put them in a fry pan and cook for a few minutes. Only when the moisture begins to evaporate do you add any oil and season (in this case I added oil and butter, mushrooms are great in butter and a balance of both means the butter doesn't burn.)

I cooked this off for a bit then took it out, butter, oil, mushrooms and all. Don't drain anything, otherwise the taste goes down the sink. Step three is then to cook off the garlic and the chilli.

Then add the mushies back to the pan along with previously cooked linguine. Only at the very last second do you add the greens, alongside a squeeze of lemon.

et voila - Linguine with Wild (and slightly less wild) Mushrooms with rocket, chilli, lemon and buttery, garlicky oil. Yum, and despite the oil and butter, still within my calorie count!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harvest Monday

Yayayay I finally have something to add to harvest Monday (and the time to add it.) Green veg, carrots, eggplants and even the last of the tomatoes were harvested and used - it is a total mixed bag this week.

I have been using a load of greens. Basil in a yummy pesto pasta

Rocket and a pseudo-rocket lettuce thingo in my wild mushroom pasta.

And lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, yet it still seems like there is loads in the garden. Some are a little bitter as they are slowly going to seed but overall a mixture of leaves is just delicious in a sandwich (such as this fig and prosciutto one)

or in a salad. Also in salads were the last of the tomatoes, some little yellow cherry ones and some carrots, purple and yellow.

This lovely little eggplant went into a rather exotic vegetarian lasagne.

Layers of homemade napolitana sauce, with carrots and mushrooms for extra goodness, mixed with layers of pasta, in amongst layers of rainbow silverbeet, broccoli and low fat riccota, with other layers of pumpkin and eggplant cubes, lightly cooked and blitzed, with shredded yellow carrot and paprika and a dash of cheddar on top. The best bit? I have leftovers to last days! Yay.

I also harvested one of the daikon radishes and used it in some chicken, chilli and radish dumplings. Totally yum. So yum I forgot to photograph it until after I grated it!

As promised in an earlier post, I should, in the coming weeks, include a few posts on these lovely recipes that use home grown produce. For more harvest posts head on over to Daphne's Dandelions and share in the spoils.

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Directions: The Tahitian Lime Wears White Stockings

The lemon tree has a new citrus friend in the garden. Everyone, please meet Mr Tahitian Lime (pictured above.) He ventured into the balcony garden the other week (in the midst of my icky bout with the flu) and settled in nicely. He has a few issues. I did buy him from Bunnings (with my last voucher) which for those who don't know is a bit of a generic hardware store with a reasonable(ish) garden collection. There were only two limes to chose from and he was the better looking. I just hope he is good quality. He looked well enough, healthy waxy leaves and a firm upright growth habit. That, and I wasn't going to come back another day in hope of there being more. I wanted a lime then and there, and he was it. Problem number two was getting him home. He fit into my car fine, with a little bit of his top smushing against of the top of the car. Still seemed happy enough - until I turned a corner and he toppled over sideways. Apart from some dirt spillage on the back floor (which I only realise now is still not cleaned up!!!) he seemed unharmed. No broken limbs or falling leaves. Hardy fellow I hope.

Step two was fitting him into the garden. Space is limited and I have some trouble adding new pots. This mean I needed to reuse an existing pot. Problem was this plant was full with a mix of things; old, half dead sunflowers and basil, and also young, newish seedlings of broccoli and cornflowers. The cornflower from this pot was moved to its own little pot.

So too was the broccoli, though with this one I got a little arty, using a round pot within a square pot (mostly to help with drainage.)

The sunflowers were binned (except for the two remaining flower heads, one being a bud, which are sitting inside the house and making one lovely posy)

The basil was turned into a yummy pesto and the seeds saved.

Meanwhile, I soaked the base of the lime tree in seaweed solution while I cleaned the pot and added good quality potting mix. In went the tree, a backfill of potting mix and hey presto, a new fruit tree joins the lemon and nectarine already in the balcony garden. Seems to fit well into his spot next to the eggplant, beans and more

It gets pretty windy here, and last week was no exception. The lime tree needed serious staking to help it settle in for its first few months. Given the lack of twine in my house, or within a 25 million km radius he is currently making do with my impromptu staking, complete with sparkly white stocking leftovers.

I'll change it for twine when I remember to buy some.

My overall plan is to subtract some of the annuals and add some more fruit trees to the balcony garden. This will help make looking after the place a little easier, particularly when it comes to waters, but also means I will save a bit on potting mix (three plantings in a year or so means three times the potting mix versus a fruit tree which needs an initial load and a change every two years.) Fruit trees take a few years to establish and produce fruit properly though hopefully I will get blossoms on this lime tree at some point in the next year, even if they don't fruit. Now to save up for the next fruit tree venture but what will it be? A fig? A blood orange? Two apples (one a golden or a granny smith, the other a pollinator)? A cherry? Or something completely different!?!